As you know if you frequently read my blog, I encourage everyone to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Fresh produce is a cheaper and far better choice than the frozen or canned options. It is great for your skin, health, and waist-line — who could have a problem with that!?
Unfortunately, the process of buying fruit can be intimidating to some. Not because the apples and cucumbers are bullies, but who really knows what to look for when buying fruit. The grocery store doesn’t teach you, because look at all the wasted food they would have if everyone knew how to buy the perfect things! After receiving many inquiries on how I look for my produce, I have put together a list of fruits and veggies, and what I look for before they go into my shopping basket.
Please let me know if there is something I am making a mistake on, or if you have a better produce-picking technique!
The key to knowing what to buy, is knowing what a products fresh characteristics are. Color, feel, looks (flowers bloomed or wilted), and damage (bruises).
For instance asparagus, my favorite grilled veggie, should be a rich-green color, and its top bloom should be closed. I always look for evenly sized stalks in my bundle so they cook evenly. So green, closed tips, and even stalks when buying asparagus.
Blueberries are a fantastic salad topper or just a quick snack. Rich in antioxidants, they are regarded by many as a super-food; I just think they taste great. A shiny white bloom is a great indicator of freshness. We are looking for firm, dark colored berries. Look for blue stains on the basket; it could be a sign of rotten or smashed berries.
When purchasing broccoli, select ones where the stalks are tight and hard. The leaves should be crisp and very green. The little trees should be dark green. Try and avoid broccoli where the buds are yellow in color and any smell coming off fresh broccoli is a sign of aging. So for fresh broccoli you should be looking for a dark green color, no smell, and firm to the touch.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Whether this is true or false; I still eat an apple a day. Sometimes two! My pet peeve with apples is cutting into one and finding the sneaky brown spot. To avoid this, pick up the apple and feel it for soft spots. If it has a soft spot, put it back. Now, I know why my mom always stressed the importance of washing your fruit! Pay attention to the shape. The rounder the apple is, the more flavor it has. I eat apples so fast. Running to the store all the time is a hassle, so I buy them in bulk. I keep them in the fridge to last longer, storing them in my pretty fruit bowl on the counter cuts their lifespan in half.
Carrots, the favorite food of cartoon bunnies everywhere. When Bugs goes to the store, he should look for hard, thick carrots, bright orange in color and without the “string roots” on the bottom. Buy with the greens still attached as that helps the carrot retain moisture. After buying, carrots can last a long time in the fridge; however you may lose some flavor.
Celery taught me those raisins, peanut butter and a bland vegetable taste brilliant. When I select celery, I look for a light green, hard stalk that hasn’t branched out from the other stalks. You also want the leaves to not be wilted, as that shows a sign of aging.
Cherries, there is no better fruit to put in a refreshing beverage or smoothie. You want cherries with a green stem and a uniform red color. I know it’s bad, but I taste a cherry in a store to make sure it is the right sweetness. Don’t judge me. I would love to know if there is a better way.
Corn, Iowa’s (my home state) most produced produce. Corn loses a ton of flavor if it isn’t eaten fresh of the stalk, but if you don’t have a boyfriend with a farm like I do, here the things to look for in the supermarket. You want a moist husk around the ear of corn, and it should be hard to peel back upon trying. You should be able to feel the kernels underneath the husk, as they are bulging full of moisture.
Melons are a staple of my summer healthy eating. Cantaloupe, Watermelon, and muskmelons are all great tasting fruits. These are some of the hardest of the fresh produce to properly pick. First, compare a few; the heavier option is usually the best. Secondly, knock on the fruit like you would on your neighbor’s door. If it sounds thick (not hollow) it is ripe. Once you take your perfect melon home, I never refrigerate until I open it up, as it changes its taste, in my opinion.
Onions, don’t let buying bad onions make you cry, buy them fresh with these tips. Avoid sprouting onions as these are old. The onion you pick should be heavy and completely dry. Also, if you can smell the onion, put it down, that is a sign of a bruised onion and it is beginning to spoil. Now, look for my flax-seed onion ring recipe, it is fantastic!
Now that I reside in the Peach state, peaches are plentiful. Pick peaches that don’t have marks on them and when you poke with your thumb, it should give. If it is too hard, it won’t ripen properly. What is your favorite “peach” dish? I can’t wait to go to a peach vineyard this spring.
Peppers should be smooth and have no bruises on the surface. Buying peppers that age is not necessarily a bad thing, as the color changes indicated a ripening pepper which will just make it sweeter. But keep in mind, the riper they are, the faster you need to use it.
I love squash, spaghetti squash is great for a pasta substitute, and squash is great roasted in the oven. You are looking for a hard and heavy squash, as the weight will indicate a heavy wall, which means more food! Color blemishes do not matter; just avoid sunken spots and cuts.
Strawberries should be red all the way to the top. If it is green at the top, it isn’t ripe, and unlike other fruits, it doesn’t ripe after being picked. Stay away from soft berries or any growing fur, as that is mold.
Sweet potatoes should be a light-tan-color. Look for hard potatoes without signs of rot or work holes. Even when you just cut these away, it still affects the taste of the rest of the potato. Please find my sweet potato chip recipe, and let me know what other flavors you come up with!
Tomatoes are a great example of beauty not only being skin deep. The ugly tomatoes sometimes taste the best! Obviously don’t pick a rotted tomato, but the key is the smell. Smell the stem and it should smell like your standing in the middle of the garden. That indicates freshness and great taste!
I hope this helps you all, and makes your produce buying more fun! Please comment with any tips, tricks that are more efficient than mine! Obviously, I have left many fruits and veggies out of this list, but using the same tips from above, you should be able to make the proper decision on the produce you want to take home. Just remember, feel, color, smell, and the ability to notice an imperfection is critical. Happy Shopping!